Epidemic Expressions: Reading the Cultural Narrative of "Spanish" Flu Discourse in Spain, 1918--19 Open Access

Davis, Ryan Alma (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/rn3011585?locale=en


This dissertation analyzes "Spanish" flu discourse in Spain (primarily news coverage) in order to trace the cultural narrative produced in response to the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. The meaning ascribed to the epidemic changed as it evolved into a full-fledged crisis, which manifested both empirically and discursively. Empirically speaking, the epidemic threatened the body politic of the Spanish nation. Discursively speaking, it threatened the Spanish nation qua imagined community. As a whole, this study examines the discursive response to this two-fold crisis. In recreating the story of the epidemic, chapter one shows how the initial benignity of the flu, and its diagnosis as such, created expectations that the epidemic would progress in a mundane fashion. It then shows how the press implicitly distinguished between an "epidemic Spain" and a "sanitary Spain" as the epidemic evolved into a crisis. The rhetorical conventions used to represent politicians, physicians, the general population, and the press were aimed at situating each group in relation to these two Spains. In chapter two, I show how the cultural figure of Don Juan, especially in the guise of the soldado de Nápoles, was invoked to explain both the empirical and discursive crises presented by the epidemic. I argue that the Don Juan figure provided a narrative template whereby Spaniards could emplot their experience of the epidemic. Given the psychocultural function of Don Juan in Spanish history, this narrative serves to reinforce Spanish national identity. In chapter three, I use editorial cartoons to show how this identity ultimately proved to be a bourgeois construct delineated according to class, culture and gender, and one that accordingly privileged the elites over the masses, high culture over low culture, and masculine over feminine.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures iii

Introduction: Epidemic Genre(s) and the "Spanish" Flu Narrative 1

Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Spains:

The "Spanish" Flu as Emerging Crisis and the Struggle to Explain and Contain It 28

Chapter 2: Figuring (out) the Epidemic:

Don Juan, the Soldado de Nápoles, and the "Spanish" Flu 102

Chapter 3: Imagining the Epidemic Nation:

Editorial Cartoons and the "Spanish" Flu 152

Conclusion: 1918, Then and Now 200

Figures 203

Works Cited 236

Works Consulted 265

List of Tables and Figures

Table 1. Soldado de Nápoles figure 121

Figure 1. "En el museo de historia natural" 203

Figure 2. "De la epidemia reinante 204

Figure 3. "Duelo a muerte" 205

Figure 4. Untitled 206

Figure 5. "¿Otra vez la gripe?" 207

Figure 6. "Fin de Veraneo" 208

Figure 7. "Del cupo de Instrucción 209

Figure 8. "Última hora" 210

Figure 9. "La enfermedad del día" 211

Figure 10. "La epidemia gripal se extiende" 212

Figure 11. "Importación" 213

Figure 12. "El campanero macabro" 214

Figure 13. "La ofensiva del ‘Soldado de Nápoles" 215

Figure 14. "Cuadro histórico" 216

Figure 15. "Gran mundo" 217

Figure 16. "Consolar al triste" 218

Figure 17. "Instrucciones para combatir la gripe" 219

Figure 18. "Lo de todos los días" 220

Figure 19. Untitled 221

Figure 20. "Una desaprensiva" 222

Figure 21. "¡Hasta la Cibeles!" 223

Figure 22. "La gripe" 224

Figure 23. "Exceso de cortesía 225

Figure 24. ""El último grito" 226

Figure 25. "La epidemia reinante. Lejos de decrecer, aumenta" 227

Figure 26. "La epidemia elegante" 228

Figure 27. "El mal de moda" 229

Figure 28. Untitled 230

Figure 29. Untitled 231

Figure 30. "Camino de armisticio" 232

Figure 31. Untitled 233

Figure 32. "El fútbol trágico" 234

Figure 33. "El microbio fanfarrón" 235

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